Avalanche Fatalities Low Given High Danger - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Avalanche Fatalities Low, Given High Danger

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BOZEMAN -

Avalanche experts say on average there are about 40 avalanche fatalities in the United States every year. In Montana, we average about four avalanche fatalities per year.

Montana's only fatal avalanche so far this season happened on New Years Day in the Onion Basin in the Northern Gallatin Range.

A father was out with his son and son's friend snowmobiling when he got caught and buried.

Avalanche expert Doug Chabot said he's surprised there haven't been more fatalities since this season has had the highest avalanche danger conditions since 2009 when seven people died after being caught in slides.

"Everyone got early season snow then that snow sat there and got weak," said Chabot.

In the last ten years, Montana has had 35 avalanche fatalities. Nineteen of those happened in the Gallatin National Forest.

Chabot said it doesn't matter what type of recreating you are doing, the chances of getting caught in a slide all depends on if you are in avalanche terrain.

"Everyone is pretty much equally likely, it's more about managing the terrain," said Chabot.  "If you go into avalanche terrain, you will stand a chance of triggering a slide."

But, Chabot predicts the worst of avalanche season is behind us.

"We'll see the avalanche danger spike with snow storms as they come, but it will also go down pretty quickly," said Chabot. "I do expect to still see avalanches, which will be followed by the storms, but I do not expect to see a wide destruction."

Chabot wants to remind everyone to travel with someone in the backcountry and always have avalanche protection gear, an avalanche transceiver, a shovel and a probe.

Currently, avalanche danger is high in the mountains around Cooke City.

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